Zaheer Khan Biography
In a country starved of great fast bowlers, Zaheer Khan came as a breath of fresh air. Though not quite a tearaway, Zaheer was able to hurry batsmen with his pace. However, it was movement, both seam and swing of the conventional kind, that made him stand out. Zaheer's greatest allies are his canny cricketing brain and skills, but fitness has always remained a problem.
Zaheer's career can be separated in two parts; from his debut till 2006, and from 2007 onwards. The drastic difference can be credited to an extremely productive stint with Worcestershire, for whom he took 78 wickets at 29.07 with five five-wicket hauls — which included a 9 for 138 — and two 10-wicket hauls.
Looking leaner and hungrier than ever on comeback, it soon became evident that Zaheer had cut down a bit on pace but had added one vital aspect to his bowling: reverse swing. This second innings proved to be a blessing for India as well; they finally had a pace bowler who could bowl long spells as well as rip through batting line-ups.
An accurate representation of this sea-change could be seen in his performances in the two World Cup finals he played. Against Australia in 2003 his first over went for 15 and he conceded 67 in 7 overs. Against Sri Lanka in 2011, Zaheer bowled three maidens in his first four overs (he took a wicket as well), ending with 2 for 60 in 10 overs.
The undisputed leader of India's bowling attack — then-skipper MS Dhoni once went so far as to call Zaheer India's ‘bowling captain’ — Zaheer's death-bowling skills and ability to move the ball either way has resulted in many a batsman being made to look like novices. Sadly for India, Zaheer's fitness troubles persisted for much of his career; the image of him pulling up with a hamstring strain in the first session of a gruelling English tour is still vivid.
A lack of form and fitness means that Zaheer was overlooked for World Cup 2015, having played his last international match for India in February 2014. It seems unlikely Zaheer will get a third innings in international cricket, which is a sad end to the career of someone who carried India's pace bowling for years.